Crete and Santorini

May 21 – 28, 2017 —

Family time – Sara’s sister Kathy and her husband, Brad, arrived for an action packed week, including time in Kos, Crete and Santorini. Both are interested the history of Greece as well as seeing new places. so we knew it would be fun.

We started their orientation with a Greek dinner on board just after they arrived. After a few hours of sleep we were off to a nearby “Turkish” town for lunch.   Getting them across to the actual country of Turkey would have been great but did not work with our schedule. Second best, as they know how much time we have spent in Turkey and love it, was to take them out for a real Turkish lunch.  We were able to introduce Brad to ayran, a yogurt based drink that most Turks have with lunch.  Bob orders it most of the time when he can.

We spent the afternoon at Asclepion, the site of Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) first hospital.  It is large and built in three levels hillside with spectacular views over to Turkey. It is well worth the visit and to remember the source of the Hippocratic Oath, still actively used today. We had been there before, but it is a must-see when guests visit.  The home of Hippocrates was most prosperous in the 4th century BC. From there we drove up to Zia, a bustling small town on the side of the mountain with spectacular views out over neighboring islands and a view of sunset that draws nightly crowds. We were happy to be among them.

It amazed us that it took until just before we left Kos to finally visit the Castle of the Knights of St. John, a 14th century castle located on the harbor right in Kos Town.  We have spent months walking past it almost daily.  Most of what remains today is the exterior walls

Crete was a quick and efficient one hour flight from Kos. We stayed at the Capsis Astoria Heraklion a great location in the city of Heraklion, Crete’s capital. We were able to walk to restaurants, the waterfront, and Archaeological Museum. 

A quick cab ride took us to the Palace of Knossos. Built in 1700 BC it is a Minoan palace.  It was excavated from about 1900 by Sir Arthur Evans and later by the British School in Athens.  It is known for having running water and a proper drainage system, unique for that time.  The reconstruction has not been without controversy as Sir Arthur Evans “reconstructed” some walls and pillars rather than leaving the original structure.  For the average person it makes it easier to picture what the original palace would have looked like. Most of the artifacts and statues have been relocated to the Architectural Museum in Heraklion making it a good follow-up visit after the Palace.

Adding to our history tour, we rented a car and headed about 1 1/2  hours to the birthplace of Zeus.    It is a bit of a hike up a hill, then steep steps down into a dark cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites covering the damp walls.

Our final stop in Crete was Spinalonga Island.  It is a five minute boat ride from the mainland, and now deserted.  From 1902-1957 or so it was a leper colony for the country of Greece.  Anyone who contracted leprosy, from even as far away as Athens, was sent to this small island.  Most people had never heard of it until the British author Victoria Hislop wrote the book “The Island”, telling the story of the island’s use.    The book tells the fictional story of one family while including facts about the island and its inhabitants during that time.

Santorini was less than two hours by fast ferry from Crete.  We arrived late morning and starting exploring, with a walk along the caldera to see the cascading of white hotels and restaurants along the edge.  While we had been there just last fall, the view never gets old!

We caught the bus to Oia for lunch overlooking the northern part of the island and a view back over the caldera.  It is the most upscale part of Santorini and absolutely beautiful.  In the evening it gets very crowded with hordes of people rushing there for sunset. We skipped that and wandered back to our hotel overlooking the caldera and enjoyed the sunset from our roof deck with a bottle of wine.

Our last day together we took a bus to the southern end of the island then a small boat to Black Beach where we had a fabulous lunch at the restaurant there overlooking the beach and bay.  We left Kathy and Brad to enjoy one more night in Santorini while we headed back to Kos and our final boat projects before starting our sail west.

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